Kahuna Does Double Duty

Snell switcher performs SD and HD operations simultaneously

Five months after revealing its Kahuna production switcher at an NAB
invitation-only sneak peek, Snell & Wilcox publicly rolled it out at IBC
2004 in Amsterdam.

"Many of the people who saw it in the back room didn't think it was
real," says Joe Zaller, Snell & Wilcox vice president, strategic marketing
and product management. Those who did placed 10 orders.

Kahuna, which can have up to four mix-effect units (M/Es), can also do
simultaneous HD and SD operation. That means a sports production that uses both
SD and HD cameras doesn't need expensive upconverters, graphics or Digital
Video Effects (DVE) to make feeds from SD cameras ready for broadcast. "Why not
do those things in the switcher?" asks Zaller. "That's what we're doing

The switcher can be configured with two, three or four M/Es that use SD
and HD together and SD and HD separately. A switcher with all the bells and
whistles costs approximately $500,000.

That price tag keeps it out of reach of the average station but makes it
attractive for network, sports-vehicle, and large-TV-station production.
Savings related to the upconverter, DVE and graphics devices alone can easily
pass $30,000.

The technical innovation inside the switcher is "format fusion." With
it, users can handle both SD and HD from one mainframe and control interface
and get a mix of effects for both SD and HD on a single unit. "Technology has
to act as an enabler to let them do their work," says Zaller. "It can't be a

The switcher takes up 11 rack-units of space even with four M/Es and
eight channels of DVE. Each M/E bank also has four keyers for luma, linear and
chromakeying, plus five transition-wipe generators.

The first customer to sign on for the switcher is Danish Broadcasting.
Five Kahuna switchers will play a big role in the company's new $500 million
production facility, which will be completed in 2006 and house all of Danish
Broadcasting's operations (they're currently spread over 12 sites). Senior
Project Manager Soren Henningsen says that, even though Danish Broadcasting
will be in SD, the switcher was the right choice. "The fact that it can operate
seamlessly in both formats at the same time gives us additional confidence in
the future-proof capability," he says.

Two U.S. companies, as yet unnamed, have also purchased the unit.